We had an active shooter exercise at work. I volunteered to play in it, and there are some lessons from it that I want to share with you.
First, let me explain a bit about what went down. Our dedicated security team had some personnel set aside to respond to this exercise. Our purpose was to train them, by presenting a plausible scenario to which they could respond. A secondary purpose was to get us thinking about what we would do in a shooter event. Our guidance is ‘run, hide, fight’, but fighting was not part of the training this time. They didn’t want us throwing chairs at the shooter in training, but that could be a reasonable ‘fight’ action in a real event. We ran two different scenarios involving response to a conference room with several people sitting at several tables. In one, a disgruntled employee (If ‘disgruntled’ is bad, what does ‘gruntled’ mean?) takes out his frustrations with a pistol. In the second, an employee goes to a Christmas party with murder on his mind.
The scenario assumed that a person in the conference room would recognize the seriousness of the situation before gunfire, and call for a response. Maybe. If you saw an agitated worker, would you call your company’s security to have a talk with him/her? That gave our responders a bit more time to arrive. Would they really have that? Who are your responders? How long will they take to arrive?
The security responders don’t know what’s happening. That’s the whole point of the exercise. They know there’s trouble, then there’s gunfire. Then they come into a room and size things up. Is there still a shooter? Shoot him until he’s no longer a threat. Now, search the room. Any accomplices? There was one in our second scenario. Now the responders are clearing the room, searching and restraining people. Meanwhile, there are wounded. Some of us were made up with moulage kits: plastic wounds and fake blood, so we looked like we had been shot. I was ‘bleeding’ and tried to act like a man who had been shot. Cooperative, but dazed. Losing blood, in shock, I fell on the floor. Was I surrounded by people providing first aid? No, not at all. Saving my life was (appropriately) a lower priority than getting control of the room. The responders were searching people while I bled out and would likely have died. This is what they were supposed to be doing. First aid comes later.
Here’s the biggest lesson: A minute is a very, very long time in a crisis. We had a rapid response from our team. They took the scenario seriously and the response was well-executed. It still seemed like forever. A careful, determined shooter could have ended a lot more lives than the scenario called for. What would happen in a real active shooter event? At work, I have a response force. At home or anywhere outside of work, I am the response force. So are you if you choose to be. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away. When an incident happens to me or near me, I will be the first on the scene, because I’m already there. I will be armed.
In the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, one mosque had fewer deaths. At that mosque, one attendee either had a gun with him or took one from the mass murderer (initial reports were contradictory, as is typical). He prevented deaths because he was armed.